The Covid-19 developments in Europe brought about travel restrictions and new quarantine decrees almost on a daily basis over the last while. Most recently, Irish consumers were affected by the cancellation in various places in Europe of major sports events, such as the recent Six Nations France v Ireland rugby match in Paris. Attending events in Europe will always involve an air or sea journey from Ireland so a cancelled event at destination will almost always result in flight and ferry tickets cancellations or changes. This will complicate things for Irish air travellers and sea passengers, and we look at the different options on how to secure refunds for the different parts of the journey and the event itself.
Event Tickets: When an event is cancelled at destination, consumers are entitled to seek a refund of their tickets, if not already offered by the promoter or organiser. If the event organiser is based within the European Union, the UK, Norway and Iceland, the European Consumer Centre (ECC) Ireland may be able to assist consumers who run into difficulty in their dealings with the organiser.
Travel Fare: Securing a refund for flights purchased in advance may be more difficult still. In the current context of the wide-spread Covid-19 emergency in Europe, we have seen cases where refunds and free re-bookings were offered to fans as a gesture of good will from transport providers. This is not a rule, and with the travel disruption continuously evolving, we are not seeing a unified response on the part of air carriers or other transporters, such as ferry, train or coach services. If your event was cancelled, yet flights to the destination country are not restricted, as was the case with the France–Ireland rugby match, even though the purpose of the trip has suffered changes, or was indeed cancelled altogether, any flights booked separately from the event ticket can only be considered within their own separate travel agreements, and the usual Terms and Conditions apply. Consumers should always contact the airline directly to see if a refund or a re-booking is possible or to see if the airline is offering any other once-off redress option related to that particular event’s cancellation. If you are concerned that your event might be cancelled or there is uncertainty regarding possible travel restrictions at the location or in the country of the event, monitor the airline’s communications to see if any offers such as free re-bookings are offered in the near future.
Accommodation Costs: If you have bought tickets to an event that was recently cancelled, but there are no restrictions imposed at the location or in the country of destination, and the accommodation providers you reserved with are still prepared to perform their side of the contract, securing a refund may be challenging. If you have booked through a booking engine such as booking.com, hotels.com, trivago.com, etc., please review and refer to the terms and cancellation policy received with the booking confirmation if you plan to make a claim for refund or re-booking.
There are cases where the hotel, Airbnb host or other accommodation provider offer to refund the costs without penalties, as a good-will gesture. In other cases, providers will offer accommodation credit or a voucher to be used at a later date, especially if the event in question was itself rescheduled. In all other cases, the relevant Terms and Conditions accepted at the time of booking are applicable. Consumers are advised to review these, as well as the contract’s cancellation policy, and get in touch with the accommodation providers directly to see what their options are as to a refund or a free re-booking.
Your travel insurance, if you have it, may cover no refund situations also. If you have ascertained that no reimbursement of any kind is forthcoming on the part of the hotel, contact your insurer directly and see what level of cover you have and what it can help with.
All-In-One Travel Package: While package Terms and Conditions tend to be generally more favourable to the customer, securing a refund for travel tickets and the hotel costs may be difficult, unless the event was part of the package, in which case consumers are advised to contact the travel agent for assistance.
If you are planning to travel to events held in Europe in the very near future, particularly in Covid-19 affected areas or countries currently considering inward and outward travel restrictions, we advise that you carefully review your travel agreements and cancellation policies well in advance of your date of travel or decision to cancel your trip. In times of great uncertainty, one of the best options to make sure you don’t end up out of pocket is to plan carefully, monitor the travel advice updates from the Irish authorities and the countries you plan intend to travel to. It’s also a good idea to take out travel insurance, especially if you travel abroad multiple times a year.
If you are based in Ireland and encounter any difficulties securing a refund in any of the above cases or you would like to make sure what your entitlements are, you are welcome to contact ECC Ireland via our contact page here. As part of the European Consumer Centres Network, ECC Ireland has access to multi-lingual, in-country teams that are able to liaise with traders on behalf of Irish consumers for this type of cancellations and not only. Click here to find out about our services and how you can submit a complaint.
Michael Flood is the Editor of Ireland's leading travel industry publication, Irish Travel Trade News. With more than 35 years experience, he has accumulated an in-depth knowledge of the airline industry and the travel and tourism world.